Monastic Vows

"Suscipe me Domine, secundum eloquium tuum et vivam.  Et non confundas me ab expectatione mea." (Uphold me, O Lord, according to your word and I shall live.  And let me not be disappointed in my hope) ~Psalm 119

suscipe.jpgBenedictines sing this verse three times, with hands raised in supplication and self-offering, after we have pronounced our vows and signed our vow statement on the altar as a sign of our consecration to God.  The verse means "Accept me, O Lord, according to your word, and I shall live; and do not disappoint me in my hope."

We make three vows: obedience, stability, and fidelity to the monastic way of life.

By the vow of obedience, we commit ourselves to strive to live the obedience of Jesus, who,  remained obedient even unto death, death on the cross (see Philippians 2:5-11).  Obedience is surrender of the self to God in love, but its concrete expression is obedience to the abbess, to those who are senior to us in community, and to the community as a whole.

St. Benedict teaches us to obey promptly, cheerfully and wholeheartedly, without grumbling, lest self-protection rather than self-surrender consume the creative energy God has given us to become mature, free, responsible persons.

By the vow of stability, we commit ourselves to remain in the monastery of our profession until death.  Normally, we expect to live and die in the community of our profession, though there might be occasional exceptions, such as nuns being sent out to found a new house under the auspices of their home monastery.  We also expect to spend most of our time within the enclosure of the monastery.  The purpose of this stability is to refuse all escapes from the rigorous work of conversion we have undertaken.

By the vow of fidelity to the monastic way of life, or conversatio morum, to use the original, untranslatable Latin phrase of the Rule of St. Benedict, we commit ourselves to a lifelong pilgrimage toward that perfect love of God and neighbor which Christ urges on us in the gospel.  We undertake to grow and change as God shapes us through all the dimensions of our  way of life.  All Christians accept this commitment to conversion in baptism; Benedictines choose to live out that commitment within the specific framework of monasticism.

Fidelity to the monastic life includes poverty, interpreted in the Rule as frugality and the renunciation of any form of private ownership of goods, and celibate chastity.